Three interpretations of hedonism seem to prevail in today’s world: Commonest are the commercial approach and the misapprended misunderstanding derived from that, upon which the religious approach relies, upon which, in turn, our dictionaries and textbooks rely. Least common, but most true to hedonism’s origins are the various philosophical hedonisms, including my own Equalitarianism that attempts to present hedonism in ways the average person can grasp. As true hedonism requires a high level of self-control and an advanced ability to cogitate, the philosophy suffers from the absence of metaphorical images available to the commercial and religious presentations, which enables those to dominate from nearly the beginning of human life.

Rather than understanding ‘metaphorical images’ as mental props meant to instill ongoing fear of dire punishment, consider the effect that a well-understood, natural system of rewards offers, the penalty side being of things you’d want to avoid anyways as a natural instinct if you saw them coming at you. Rather than of what you will do in spite of a threat, penalties that naturally fit the crime, rather than eternal torment for rather minor infractions, seem more believable to the forewarned scholar. Rewards you can earn for yourself hold more promise than foggy notions of a Heaven designed for 12thousand gross of Jews (that promises to be too overcrowded to allow admittance to very many Gentiles). Penalties that accompany errant acts can be observed at work on other people and enable a wise person to choose against a multitude of evils at work all around. Here should be the clincher: The system is already at work whether or not we choose to benefit from it.

While I have no interest in promoting any specific causes, a better understanding of the ages-old philosophy that gave rise to the American constitution, and the resultant experiment in democracy, should warn us of historically-evidenced dangers inherent to the increasing entanglement of religion with governance our nation has been facing since its inception. America‘s major religion rightly demonizes commercial hedonism without caring to recognize it as such due to historical ties with the moneyed side [1]from which it gains its support. Hedonism’s “pursuit of happiness” mantra was openly expressed in the oft repeated quote that begins with [2]”life, liberty and the…” expressed by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence.

While not official policy, that document does serve as a statement of [3]Deism-derived beliefs we find verified in a letter from Jefferson to William Short, “…As you say of yourself, I too am an Epicurean. I consider the genuine (not the imputed) doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy…” As a Deist, for whom no god named God remains active in the universe, it is only natural that he would find authority in an ethical philosophy, and only natural that, as reviled and malpracticed as it had been, few people of his time (and ours) would understand ethical hedonism in any factual manner.

Epicurus ran a school, The Garden, where he taught his philosophy, now known as Epicureanism. From Wikipedia:

“For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia—peace and freedom from fear—and aponia—the absence of pain—and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. He taught that pleasure and pain are the measures of what is good and evil; death is the end of both body and soul and should therefore not be feared; the gods do not reward or punish humans; the universe is infinite and eternal…”

Other than the labels, the message is basically the same then as now, waiting for us to interpret how to apply it according to today’s advancing knowledge. Rules derived from the modern view differ very little from those Epicurus expressed, and engage every aspect of human existence. I arrived at over a hundred general rules before I showed them to my neighbor. He commented, “So complicated. We have only ten.” He just stood there, grinning while he waited for what I’d have to say, so, I responded, “Maybe that’s why there’s such a high percentage of your folks in jail, compared to us.”

I don’t mind including myself ‘in’ with whom I know as good people. If I were to appropriate just ten rules out of what Ben Franklin wrote to Mr Short and what Wikipedia attributed to Epicurus, here’s what they’d be:

  1. Balance pleasure and pain to stay happy, calm and peaceable.
  2. Stay decent with others and aim to do them no harm.
  3. *Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.
  4. Silver Rule: One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated.
  5. Reward and penalty measure good and evil for both Nature and mankind; therefore, aim to live a tranquil life and let your good deeds far outnumber the bad.
  6. Stay active and maintain good health in every way.
  7. Believe nothing beyond that which has been tested through observation or logical deduction.
  8. “Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.” – Thales
  9. Fear not, for death offers no threat beyond eternal peace.
  10. The highest good comes from pleasures of the mind, so stay interested, refuse no opportunity to learn or create according to your talents, attend to your studies, and learn from others with due caution.
    ~~

*Note: I believe Epicurus’ laid-back approach was not shared by Mr. Franklin nor by myself. Modern life exposes us to too many opportunities to experience excruciating pain, so that near-total avoidance is impossible to maintain while aiming to also live a healthy life without becoming a recluse. Still, one should not give up his/her rights to cater to other’s whimsy. The Golden Rule as usually expressed fails to acknowledge the need for complete reciprocity to establish the empathy necessary for total civility. Therefore, I offer this revision while keeping the Silver Rule as is: “Do unto others as they would have you to for so long as you do not violate your own principles.” I have added these rules, with that modification, to my list, which now numbers 125.

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I have discovered my footnotes have been failing to show up in the publishing process, so am experimenting with various methods of creating them. It appears that the old fashioned “look for this number at the bottom of this page, then try to find where you were before going blind” approach may be all there is. My approach to this condition?—read the page thru, then read the notes and try to remember why they’re there. Makes a fun game of it.

I recently uploaded 127 LLOYD’S RULES to amazon.com in hopes readers of this blog would find it relevant. I started it as a collection of Gibbs Rules (on NCIS, CBS) but found them a little too work-oriented to mean much. I started my own list with modified versions of those applicable in the Gibbs list, and increased it with hedonism-oriented rules as I discovered them. I told myself, “People ought to be able to find these all in one place, instead of having to learn them the hard way!” and decided to share them at amazon’s lowest ebook price. (Hey, I appreciate what they do for unsponsored authors. They deserve to earn a few cents for hosting information you can find gathered nowhere else).

NOTES:

[1][1] http://www1.umassd.edu/euro/2005papers/keuhn.pdf  “…students are sometimes disturbed to learn that in early Christian history, conversion was often in response to economic or political benefits rather than religious fervor… …As economic forces proved unwavering and proto-industrialization rapidly changed the society of the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, intellectuals gradually changed their tune, postulating that capitalism, private ownership and overseas trade were part of God’s plan. Thus, observers of social change manipulated religious rhetoric to justify the new market society, which had become necessary for people’s economic well-being.”

Book: Spiritual Merchants: Religion Magic & Commerce [Paperback]

http://www.aef.com/on_campus/asr/editorial_intros/10_4 “…contemporary observers in the West tend to think of religion and commerce as two domains that are—or at least should be—tightly sealed off from each other. However, the longer human record shows the persistent influence of religion on commercial practices, while commerce has always ‘tainted’ the space of the sacred.”

 

[2][1] Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Wikipedia offers a useful discussion about Jefferson’s inspiration but does not claim the final word.

http://libertylifehappiness.wordpress.com/2013/04/22/liberty-liberty/

[3][1] Both [theists and Deists] asserted belief in one supreme God, the Creator… and agreed that God is personal and distinct from the world. But the theist taught that God remained actively interested in and operative in the world which he had made, whereas the Deist maintained that God endowed the world at creation with self-sustaining and self-acting powers and then abandoned it to the operation of these powers acting as second causes. (Wikipedia)

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